2024-02-24 17:05:49
Reprints of Nazi newspapers a big hit in Germany legislation


A British publisher has come up with the idea of selling reprints of Nazi newspapers to German customers.

You can imagine the sales pitch: “Week by week, your collection will grow into a fascinating overview of the virulent propaganda that polluted a nation’s psyche and started a war that brought Europe to its knees.”

The Zeitungszeugen(Newspaper Witnesses) series, juxtaposing reprints with modern analysis and comment, has been a huge hit and the first issue, including pages from Der Angriff– editor Joseph Goebbels – has all but sold out in the German capital.

And so, as the rest of the world reads about the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama this week, tens of thousands of Zeitungszeugenreaders will be catching up with Der Angriff’saccount of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in January 1933.

“We want to give people the opportunity to form their own picture not only of the political events,” says series editor, historian Sandra Paweronschitz, “but also of the era in which these events took place and the attitudes to life at that time, for example by reading the classifieds or the film guide.”

Historian Wolfgang Benz, who worked on the project, described the reprints of original material as less harmful than the endless series of slick documentaries that run on German television every night.

But involving several leading German historians in the project hasn’t placated Germany’s Jewish community. Ralph Giordano, one of Germany’s most prominent Holocaust survivors, suggested that the series was an indication that “Hitler was defeated militarily, but not intellectually”.

On Friday evening, the Bavarian state government slapped a ban on the project just as publishers readied issue two – a reprint of the vitriolic Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party paper.

Officials in Munich announced that the publication was a breach of copyright it has held since absorbing the assets of the main Nazi publishing house, Eher, in 1945.

The publishers of Zeitungszeugenhave admitted they were aware of the copyright, but declined to apply for permission for fear of being refused.

Now the company has vowed to fight a ban they call “an attack on press freedom”.

That could lead to an interesting legal battle, as some legal observers in Germany have claimed the copyright on the Nazi newspapers has long since expired.

It is the latest round in a long-running battle in Germany about whether to keep Nazi documents locked up or to distribute them for educational purposes.

Last year, leading historians called on the Munich government to permit a new German-language publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to which it also holds the rights.

They want to see an annotated version on sale before the work enters the public domain in 2015. Then, 70 years after the dictator’s death, far-right fringe parties in Germany plan to flood the country with their own cheap copies of the work.

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